Popes in a Year
#63 - Pope Pelagius II
Pope from November 26, 579 - February 9, 590
Died: February 9, 590
Give me the scoop on Pelagius II.
Pelagius II was born in Rome around the year 520, but appears to have been of Gothic descent. Elected on November 26, 579 after a vacancy of four months, Pelagius immediately had to deal with the continuing Lombard invasion of Italy. His petitions for help from both the Franks and Constantinople sadly failed, though not from a lack of trying. The Franks initially attacked the Lombards out of allegiance to the pope, but were soon bribed to leave Italy instead. Then, Pelagius sent his eventual successor, St. Gregory the Great, to Constantinople as his representative with instructions to “haunt the imperial palace day and night … and to strain every nerve to induce the emperor to send help to Rome.” Must have been urgent.
In any case, the emperor was severely limited in his capacity to help, and thus was unable to offer Rome assistance. Thankfully, Pelagius helped convince the emperor’s man in Rome to forge a truce with the Lombards, granting peace and quiet to the city and (probably) some brain space for the pope to get some real work done. Pelagius II died on February 9, 590 and was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.
What was he known for?
Pelagius II seems to have been known for his persistence in all things. From begging the help of the Franks and the emperor, to sending letter after letter begging the conversion of heretical bishops in Istria (modern-day Croatia), to vigorously promoting clerical celibacy, Pelagius accomplished a lot in his ten years as pope. He was insanely generous too, having converted his own residence into a hospital for the poor, adorned the Shrine of St. Peter, and rebuilt the Church of St. Lawrence in Rome, among other things now lost to history.
Pelagius II was the first pope to fall victim to and die from the bubonic plague, the terrible illness that made its first appearance in the 6th Century, but was most prevalent nearly 700 years later. Not much of a fun fact.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In 587, what’s become known as the
; literally: “and [from] the Son”) was first used in the Nicene Creed in Spain in an effort to combat Arianism.
This modification didn’t appear in the original version, but is still recited in many places today as:
...and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father
and the Son
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified...
Coming tomorrow....Pope St. Gregory the Great (Gregory I)
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope Pelagius II -
Pope Pelagius II -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Wednesday, March 29 at 2:00AM